Wait? My Child Starts Kindergarten?!

by Savannah Williams, Youth Advocate, Umbrella – Newport Office

 “Whether we’re a preschooler or a young teen, a graduating college senior or a retired person, we human beings all want to know that we’re acceptable, that our being alive somehow makes a difference in the lives of others.” Fred Rogers

Before I found out I was pregnant, I always pictured how I wanted to raise my child. I had the goal that I was going to raise my child differently than how I was raised by my parents. Then one day my dream came true, I found out that I was going to be a mom to a baby boy. I knew that I didn’t want my child to grow up walking on eggshells and being afraid of living in his own home. I wanted him to know that he could ask questions and test boundaries to learn, dream and grow. I wanted him to experience the world, while I held my breath and stood closely by to watch…even though I thought of stocking up on bubble wrap. I wanted to teach him how to use his voice to express his feelings and thoughts. I wanted him to be able to identify people that he could trust. But, most of all I wanted him to feel loved and safe.

I worried about all the influences that would affect his development and growth. I worried about my relationship with my husband. We were raised very differently and I was worried about our parenting styles. I worried about our parents and siblings. I worried about what was on TV and in movies. Daycare was always on my mind. Don’t get me wrong, daycare providers a super people. My mom was a daycare provider for over six years, but no matter what, they weren’t me.

I was picked on and told that I was being ridiculous. That at some point I needed to cut the umbilical cord. What they didn’t understand was that of course I wanted my son to have every opportunity that I could possibly provide to him, but I also wanted him to be safe. Pretty soon it became a running joke about how I was going to be on his first day of school.

Then, somehow overnight my son went from a needy, dependent infant to a curious, active toddler, to now the beginning of his school career. It was time for KINDERGARTEN! The whole “my baby is growing up” was hitting hard. And new worries began.

Starting ‘big kid school’ can be one of the most exciting and scary times in a child’s life. It’s almost like discovering a whole new world that may have familiar components of home life. It’s totally normal for both parents and children to feel anxious. Some children may feel like they are being punished because they are being sent away to school. Others may feel a little jealous because their younger siblings get to spend the day at home playing with beloved toys.

My son was worried about what if he had to go to the bathroom? What happens if he gets lost? How was he supposed to get home? What if someone didn’t want to play with him? Was he going to get a chance to play or was it all about the “paperwork?” (The worry about paperwork came after he saw me filling out his registration packet). I had very similar worries including him meeting all of these new strangers and what if he gets hurt or in trouble – who will he be able to turn to?

Kindergarten readiness is different for every single family. So, here are a few tips that my son, husband and I worked on together that I would like to share with you:

  • Prepare for new routines, children have easier transitions when they know what to expect. This can include bedtime, bath time and maybe even breakfast time.
  • Set consistent limits. Children feel safer and more self-confident if they know that you are paying attention and will help them.
  • Prepare for school rules. Just like at home school has rules to keep children safe and learning orderly. For example, children have to raise their hands and wait to be called on, so the teacher can make sure that everyone gets a chance to talk.
  • Help your child learn from their mistakes. When things go wrong help them figure out what they can try to do differently the next time.
  • Let your child know that sometimes other children may play differently then what they are used to. Teach your child that it is okay to say “stop that, I don’t want to play that way.”
  • Teach your child that all feelings are okay, but not all actions. For example, it’s okay to be upset, but it’s not okay to hit. Help your child find ways to calm down when they are upset and regulate their feelings.
  • Set up a meeting with the teacher and tour the school. It can very reassuring for all of you to see where their days will be spent. This can also help both of you to identify who your child can go to if they need help.
  • Walk, ride or drive to school, this will help your child become more familiar with the route.

These were some helpful things that we did with our son to make a happy transition into the ‘big kid school.’ By the time his first day rolled around I was pretty confident and we were ready. I came to the understanding that he was going to have experiences without me by his side, but you know what? I’m okay with that. I want him to create his own little social life with me there to help guide him. Plus, I found that I love listening about all of his new adventures.

Oh yeah, by the way, I didn’t shed a tear, but my husband did!